Britain confirmed today that it’s sending more troops to Afghanistan. The World’s Laura Lynch reports that the British announcement may have previewed tomorrow’s speech by President Obama.
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MARCO WERMAN: Britain confirmed today that it’s sending more troops to Afghanistan. Gordon Brown made the announcement. The World’s Laura Lynch reports that the British Prime Minister may well have previewed parts of the speech President Obama will give tomorrow.
LAURA LYNCH: Gordon Brown delivered his news in Parliament today. The Prime Minister said Britain will send another 500 troops to Afghanistan.
PM GORDON BROWN: I can confirm that we will move to a new force level of nine and a half thousand. The extra troops will deploy in early December to thicken the UK troop presence in central Helmand.
LYNCH: Five hundred additional soldiers aren’t much compared with the 33,000 reinforcements that some expect President Obama to send to Afghanistan. But Britain already has the second largest contingent in the country. And Brown has to sell the British public on the reasons for sending even more soldiers into what has become an unpopular mission.
BROWN: Some ask why British troops are in Afghanistan at all. If al Qaida can organize in Britain, in Somalia, in Yemen, in other places and even in internet chat rooms in every part of the world. But as long as the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas are the location of choice for al Qaida and are the epicenter of global terrorism, it is the government’s judgment that we must address the terrorist threat at its source.
LYNCH: You may well hear an echo of those words tomorrow from President Obama. Michael Clarke is the director of research at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. He says both leaders believe the time has come to implement the strategy of America’s top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think this week is the “let’s get on with it week.” Nobody disagrees on the basic strategy. Nobody disagrees that the McChrystal plan is essentially the only way forward. There is something to be hoped for in this week. The situation on ground in Afghanistan is not particularly good, but the consensus for action, the consensus to stop talking about it and get on with it, is now, I think, really quite strong.
LYNCH: Still, there was more evidence today of that consensus. Brown said eight other nations are committing more troops to the operation. British officials put the number of soldiers at about 5,000. Colonel Richard Kemp is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. Kemp says the numbers are important but not as important as getting the troops there rapidly.
COL. RICHARD KEMP: This is all about speed, which is why the delay in deploying these troops, the delay in deploying American forces in large numbers, that has taken several months to decide to do, that works against our objectives in Afghanistan in a way.
LYNCH: Other problems remain. Even if other nations are ready to send more troops, they may not be willing to move their soldiers into the more volatile areas in the south. After all, the Canadians and the Dutch are making plans to pull out of the region. And then, there’s Pakistan.
Prime Minister Brown may be providing another hint of the White House strategy yesterday when he publicly presses Pakistan to go after al Qaida.
BROWN: Eight years after 2001, people are gonna ask why is Osama bin Laden never been near to being caught. We believe he’s in Pakistan. Why is Zawahiri, who is the number two in control, never been caught and what can the Pakistan authorities do that is far more effective to help us make sure that the al Qaida threat is dealt with in Pakistan itself?
LYNCH: Brown’s criticism hasn’t gone over well with Pakistan’s leaders. The interior minister Rehman Malik says it’s up to NATO and US forces to ensure the border with Afghanistan is secure.
REHMAN MALIK: No, the main thing west has to do is seal the border from that side. You know there are NATO force, US forces and Afghan forces and still you can see with the naked eyes the ammunition coming. No, these terrorists have their rocket launchers, anti aircraft guns, land mines, name anything, they have it, which only a state can have it. And if these groups or these terrorists are having it through Afghanistan then it is for Afghanistan and the allied forces to see as to who is the supplier.
LYNCH: Malik adds that if Gordon Brown has any fresh information about where bin Laden is, Pakistan would like to see it. After all, he says, Pakistani intelligence suggests he’s no longer within Pakistan’s borders. For The World, I’m Laura Lynch, in London.
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